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Today's Big Story

Death Threats and Amateur Porn

Inside the nasty world of riding politics.

By Richard Warnica 6 Feb 2007 | TheTyee.ca

Richard Warnica is a senior editor at The Tyee.

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There are no politics dirtier than riding level politics. Just ask Nick Kouvalis.

In 2004, Kouvalis helped Jeff Watson become the first Conservative to win Ontario's Essex riding in more than 40 years. But the honeymoon was short lived. Barely a year later, in the summer of 2005, Kouvalis was charged with threatening to kill his former boss.

Last week, an Ontario judge dismissed the charge against Kouvalis. But not before the court, and the country, heard about one of the nastiest, and definitely the most tawdry, intra-party feud in years.

You can read Anne Jarvis's account of the whole affair in last Saturday's Windsor Star. But the highlights are these:

Sometime after the 2004 election, Kouvalis and Watson had a falling out. As Paul Martin's Liberal government teetered, Kouvalis left Watson's camp to campaign for Conservative Rick Fuschi in a nearby riding. Among the volunteers Kouvalis brought with him were two young women: Kaydee Schnekenburger and Angela Jonsson.

Schnekenburger and Jonsson eventually returned to Watson's camp. And when they did, they brought a story with them. Kouvalis, they claimed, told them in the summer of 2005 that if he could get away with it, he would kill Watson.

The two women's testimony formed the heart of the prosecutions case against Kouvalis. And it was questions about their credibility that eventually led to its collapse.

According to Jarvis, in his decision, the judge in the case said he was "'troubled' by evidence the charge was politically motivated."

"He cited testimony that Schnekenburger and Jonsson spent five days discussing the alleged threat with others and Watson -- during which the pros and cons of arresting Kouvalis were weighed --- before Watson called police."

If that wasn't enough, Kouvalis's lawyer also argued that Schnekenburger had a grudge against the accused. He alleged, and Schnekenburger acknowledged under cross-examination, that Kouvalis had once warned her not to hit on now Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Mackay. Kouvalis was worried, his lawyer said, because Schnekenburger had recently ended a relationship with another Conservative MP, later revealed to be Conservative caucus chair Rahim Jaffer.

The story gets worse.

During the trial, Conservative party members and some members of the media received e-mails that included "nude or sexually suggestive or explicit photographs purportedly of Jonsson and Schnekenburger." The caption on the photos read: "Angela Jonsson and Kaydee Schnekenburger are the main witnesses for Jeff Watson in a criminal trial. Credible or incredible?"

Death threats, MP sex, and amateur porn: at the riding level, away from the glare, you never know what you're going to get.  [Tyee]

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